STARRING Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Finola Hughes, Jennifer Lawrence DIRECTED BY Drake Doremus SCREENPLAY Ben York Jones, Drake Doremus MPAA RATING NR RUNNING TIME 90 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Paramount Vantage DVD EXTRAS Audio Commentary
"Like Crazy" Review
Girl meets boy. Girl flirts. Boy likes it. Girl and boy fall in love. Like Crazy.
Anna (Felicity Jones, Brideshead Revisited) is a British college student studying in Los Angeles and nearing the end of her studies and her time in the U.S.
Jacob (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek) is an introverted teaching student who catches Anna's eye. She writes him a lengthy, hand-written letter confessing her interest and he, in turn, seems completely amazed that anyone has even noticed him.
The timing is horrible. The obstacles quite obvious. The whole thing is, well, crazy.
Ain't that love?
Co-writer/director Drake Doremus (Douchebag, Spooner) has penned an intelligent and emotionally resonant romantic drama that may not possess all the heightened melodrama and sweeping vistas to be found in Twilight - Breaking Dawn Part 1, but this film has the advantage of a natural, authentic story with an ensemble cast that brings it beautifully to life.
Like Crazy is about first love. Like Crazy is about long distance love. Like Crazy is about that kind of love that drives you completely insane and no matter how hard you may try to get it out of your system you find it completely and utterly impossible. Anna and Jacob know their obstacles and their chances of success are minimal, but when you love someone like crazy you're willing to risk it all to make it work. After the two spend their final few months together, Anna makes the ill-advised decision to overstay her visa rather than return home to England. When she finally does return home with the plan to come back a mere week later, she finds herself denied entrance at the guy ... because she violated the terms of her visa.
While it is this decision that sets in motion the conflicts and challenges that will drive the film, what really fuels Like Crazy is the completely realistic way in which Doremus and his cast and crew work together to create the chain reaction called life that follows when true love finds in its way such a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Like Crazy captured the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, while Jones picked up an acting prize for her performance here. Indeed, it is Jones who is the life blood of the film with a performance that is vibrant, spirited, sweet, tender and amazingly vulnerable. If Hollywood is paying attention, Jones should be getting a few phone calls after her performance here.
Yelchin's performance is quite different from that of Jones, a more inward performance reflective of a young man who allows his creativity, in this case furniture design and creation, to be his voice. Yelchin refreshingly doesn't portray Jacob with macho bravado, like say a certain Jacob in a certain Twilight film, but instead makes him a compelling young man who is captivating because he's perceptive, attentive and he listens to words both spoken and unspoken. While there are times the film feels a bit off kilter between Anna's vibrance and Jacob's near state of catatonia, it's that off-kilter nature that gives the film much of its emotional depth and resonance.
Doremus reportedly gave his cast the fundamentals of the story and they, in turn, created improvised dialogue to flesh it out. It's this spontaneity that seems to give Like Crazy its spontaneity and tremendous spirit. There are simple lines of dialogue delivered, especially in the film's more intimate scenes, that are genuinely touching and intimate. On the flip side, Like Crazy occasionally feels a bit disjointed and disconnected with precious, beautiful scenes connected by only a slight thread of humanity. It's the performances of Jones and Yelchin that gets us through these scenes, both exhibiting a relaxed and believable chemistry with one another that makes even the film's more awkward, unevenly paced scenes feel realistic and easy to accept.
Jennifer Lawrence, an Oscar nominee last year for Winter's Bone, takes a relatively one-note role as a woman with whom Jacob takes up during our young couple's periods of forced and unforced separation. Charlie Bewley, of The Twilight Saga, has that same role in Anna's life, though not quite as quickly as what happens with Jacob, whose mind seems to more easily accept the limitations of this long-distance relationship. Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead are terrific as Anna's warm and a bit wild parents.
Dustin O' Halloran's original music is a stellar companion for the film, while D.P. John Guleserian utilizes a variety of approaches to emphasize both the film's intimacy and distance. Handheld camera work is a bit of a gimmick these days, but for the most part Guleserian utilizes the approach well. Katie Byron's production design is remarkably effective, capturing subtly the very different worlds that these two create even as they do everything possible to make their relationship work.
Like Crazy is one of two "romantic" films opening this pre-Thanksgiving weekend in Indianapolis, the other being Twilight - Breaking Dawn Part 1, a film that is destined to win the box-office and will likely capture a bigger box-office its opening day than will this film during its entire run. While there's nothing wrong with getting swept up in the "fantasy" of Twilight, here's hoping that many of you choose to give Like Crazy, a vastly more authentic film from beginning to end, a chance.